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Premier League update: Chelsea in first place, United moves up

EPL Week 24: Leicester 0-3 Manchester United

Manchester United goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 42, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 44, Juan Mata 49

Manchester United cruised to victory against Premier League holders Leicester City with goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Juan Mata as United continue to push for a top four finish in the battle for the league title and a spot in next season’s Champions League tournament. After EPL MatchWeek 24, Chelsea remain on top of the Premier League Table with 59 points; Tottenham Hotspur are in second with 50 points; Manchester City are one point behind the Spurs in third with 49 points; Arsenal are in third with 47 points; Liverpool are in fifth place with 46 points; and closing the gap are Manchester United in sixth with 45 points.

Top goal scorers in the Premier League to date going into Round 25 are in order, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sánchez, Diego Costa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Harry Kane, Jermain Defoe, Dele Alli, Sergio Agüero, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mané, Christian Benteke, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Olivier Giroud, Michail Antonio, Roberto Firmino, Theo Walcott, Fernando Llorente, Adam Lallana, Son Heung-min, Robert Snodgrass, Robert Snodgrass, Troy Deeney, Salomón Rondón, Álvaro Negredo, and James Milner. Manager José Mourinho seems pleased with his Manchester United side during his debut season at Old Trafford although he thinks his club should be higher in points since it has been awhile since the Red Devils have lost a match. However United remain outside the Premier League’s top four. Henrikh Mkhitaryan opened the scoring for Man United as the attacking midfielder scored at 42 minutes setting the pace for United’s win against last season’s Premier League champions, Leicester City. Ibra scored the second goal - his twentieth of the season - setting a record, and Mkhitaryan set up the third goal for Juan Mata early in the second half sealing United’s win after a run of three consecutive draws in the EPL.

For United it was a massive must win game and after the losses of Arsenal and Liverpool on Saturday Manchester United moved closer to a top four finish. Next United travel across town to clash with noisy neighbors and arch rivals Manchester City in a Manchester Derby, before facing titan rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. José Mourinho talked about how United’s ruthlessness in the clash. “My team is playing very well,” said Mourinho after a 15th league game without defeat. “But for many, many years in my career – especially in this country – when my teams were ruthless and when my teams were phenomenal defensively and very good on the counterattack, I listened week after week that it was not enough, in spite of winning the title three times. It looks like this season, to be phenomenal defensively and good on the counterattack, is art. It is a big change in England.” Eric Bailly was back for the united team for his first football match since the Africa Cup of Nations.

Leicester fans were stunned and devastated by the loss as it is possible that the Foxes may become the first club since Man City in 1938 to be relegated the season after winning the top-flight EPL title and a spot in the Champions League after four straight losses for them in the league. To date Leicester have not scored in the competition in 2017. Next the Foxes travel to Swansea City. Leicester’s situation was worsened by the victories for Hull City and Sunderland down at the bottom of the table on Saturday. Leicester started the match only one point above the relegation zone. Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri defended the “warriors and fighters” on his Leicester City team who won the title last year but are now threatened by relegation, at the same time as the popular club stated their “unwavering support” for their Italian boss Ranieri. The champions have won only 2 of their past 15 matches in the England Premier League and currently sit only a point clear of the relegation zone in 16th place. An official statement, giving a vote of confidence to Ranieri was released before he spoke to the media in the buildup to Leicester’s FA Cup replay with Derby County on Wednesday.

“Maybe the chairman wants to stop all the speculation,” Rainer said of the statement. “For me, it’s important to try to find the right solution for the players, that is it. When you don’t win you lack confidence, it’s normal, but fortunately these players are warriors. They are used to fighting. They already lived this situation. They’ve lived the good things but also the bad. So I stay with the soldiers, with the warriors who know the problem, who know the enemy.”

Ranieri compared himself to a “windsurfer on a sea of sharks” and addressed rumors he had changed the club’s diet by saying “I don’t like pasta”. Ranieri said he would always be grateful to his players for what they achieved last season. After Leicester’s loss to Manchester United, goalie Kasper Shmeichel said the problems at the club ran from “top to bottom”. “I love these players, they gave me something special in my career, I thank them all my life for this”, continued Ranieri “I am in agreement with all my players. Kasper is one of my leaders and he wants to stimulate everyone - he wants to help me stimulate the team. We have leaders, they are speaking together trying to help the team, and support the team, the dressing room is fantastic.”

Ranieri has also come under pressure for changing his tactics. “I don’t change any more, from now on it is 4-4-2. Also, I am Pinocchio. This year I change a little more because when things don’t go right, I must try to find a solution”, added Ranieri. “But my players understand the tactics and the systems well. We speak every time about what we need to improve and it’s OK with all my staff and with everybody. I am very happy, I am extra happy if we win.” Riyad Mahrez who is the current PFA player of the year has failed to come close to his performances of last season. “Mahrez feels good,” Ranieri said. “He is frustrated at his own form. I say: ‘Hey, you are now Mahrez, golden ball, everyone wants to kill you.’ Today he asks me: ‘You think I need something more?’ I say no, just switch on.”

“In light of recent speculation, Leicester City Football club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for first-team manager, Claudio Ranieri,” read the statement. “While there is a collective appreciation from everyone at the club that recent form needs to improve, the unprecedented success achieved in recent seasons has been based firmly on stability, togetherness and determination to overcome even the greatest of challenges. The entire club is and will remain unified behind its manager and behind its players, collectively.” Leicester City No.1 Kasper Schmeichel described the Foxes” performance as “unacceptable” and the club’s predicament as “embarrassing”, warning his team-mates that if they did not improve, they would be relegated...

“For the first 40 minutes we played OK but after that it was unacceptable,” said Schmeichel, Leicester’s goalkeeper. It is not good enough and sums our season up at the moment. Let’s not talk about last season. It’s gone. There are a lot of factors that go into it but this season has not been good right from the start. We are a group of players low on confidence but not low on fight. It is not a comfortable situation. It has been terrible, embarrassing. It is time for each one of us – from the top to the bottom of this club – to stand up and be counted. If we don’t, we will be relegated.” Ranieri’s Leicester have a critical week ahead as Leicester faces Derby County in the FA Cup and Swansea City in the league, followed by a Champions League tie against Sevilla. “Last season everything was right for us; this season everything is wrong, said Rainer. “We are together. If the players are unhappy, they can go and see the chairman but no one has done that.”

Squads

Leicester
Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Musa; Vardy, Okazaki. Substitutes: Zieler, Chilwell, Benalouane, King, Albrighton, Gray, Kapustka.

Manchester United

De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo; Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Mata, Rashford; Ibrahimovic. Substitutes: Romero, Blind, Lingard, Fellaini, Young, Carrick, Martial.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

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